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What is analytic philosophy?

Analysis is a mental process that breaks down ideas, beliefs, arguments or trains of thought, and systems of thought into their simpler components. Insofar as philosophy is about "mental products" in its own field and others, all philosophy is analytic. However, in American philosophy departments, and internationally, the term "analytic philosophy" has come to designate twentieth century mainstream philosophical thinking, as opposed to continental philosophy, pragmatism, and subjects that now fall under "new philosophy" because they are recent additions to the field.

What is distinctive about the practice of analytic philosophy?

Analytic philosophy is as much a method as a set of traditional subjects. The method is a combination of empiricism and conceptual analysis, with as little speculation as possible.

Early twentieth century analytic philosophy

What were the important themes in early twentieth century analytic philosophy?

Analytic philosophy before World War II began with a rejection of British idealism via G.E. Moore's (1873-1958) well-received common sense philosophy and a new rigor in theories of meaning, introduced by the empiricist Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). The doctrine of logical atomism, as developed by Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), flourished for a while.

Logical atomism was dependent on truth-functional logic for its explication. In other words, analytic philosophers generally turned to logic as the science par excellence that set the standard for philosophy.

G.E. Moore

Who was G.E. Moore?

George Edward Moore (1873-1958) successfully revived epistemological and metaphysical realism and supported a common sense philosophical method. He spent most of his career at Cambridge University, becoming a professor there in 1925. As an undergraduate, Moore was a member of the Cambridge Apostles, a select intellectual group of Cambridge University undergraduates. He was editor of the top analytic journal, Mind (1921-1947). Moore's main books are Philosophical Studies (1922), Principia Ethica (1903), and Some Main Problems of Philosophy (1953).

What was G.E. Moore's common sense philosophy?

Moore made a distinction between what philosophers claim and what ordinary people believe. He wrote:

I do not think that the world or the sciences would ever have suggested to me any philosophical problems. What has suggested philosophical problems to me is things which other philosophers have said about the world or the sciences.

His own philosophical approach was to analyze concepts or the meanings of words by determining the difference between any one concept "before the mind" or under consideration as an object of thought, and other concepts. In his writing, Moore demonstrated a methodical and thorough style of analysis. It was this calm, painstaking clarity that established his philosophical stature in the twentieth century.

How Did G.E. Moore develop his common sense philosophy?

Moore's first major article was "The Refutation of Idealism," which was published in Mind in 1903. In it he argued that no idealist or skeptical argument was as convincing as common sense beliefs that the world is real, and that, therefore, idealism and skepticism can just be dismissed. Moore became famous for "proving" the existence of the external world with his legendary "two hands argument" (derived from his 1939 "Proof of an External World" argument against skepticism concerning the existence of the external world.)

Moore said that by raising his right hand and saying, "Here is a hand," and then raising his left and saying, "And here is another," the skeptical position was disproved. This was not as "off hand" a dismissal as it seems. Moore's premise was that he knew

Who or what were the Cambridge Apostles?

This was the undergraduate club at Cambridge University to which G.E. Moore, and some of the male writers who held him in high esteem, belonged. The Cambridge Apostles, or "Cambridge Conversazione Society," was founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, who was later bishop of Gibraltar. There were originally 12 members; hence the name. They met on Saturday nights for discussion after one member presented a paper and they ate "whales," which were sardines on toast. The Apostles have always been a quasi-secret society with an annual dinner and a meeting in London every so often. Women could not be considered for membership until 1970.

When the "Cambridge spy ring" was disclosed in 1951, four of its members were former Apostles, and two, who were employed in high government offices, had given the KGB sensitive information. (The Cambridge spy ring consisted of five British young men who attended Cambridge University and were recruited to spy for the Soviet Union during the 1930s. They infiltrated the highest levels of British government and betrayed top secrets to the Soviet Union.)

he had two hands, from which it followed that the external world existed, from which it followed that there was no ground for the skeptic's doubt about its existence.

How was G.E. Moore a realist?

Moore was at times a naive realist and at other times a representative realist. All realists believe that there is a real, external world. Naive realists hold that we directly perceive objects in this world. Representative realists think that what we perceive are the effects of those objects on our organs of sense, or, in other words, that what we perceive are not objects but sense data caused by real objects.

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